How to Recover Data from Mac Hard Drive [5 Ways]

Losing data is frustrating and worrying, especially when you’re unsure how to recover it, or if you’ve never done it before. Common data loss risks computer users face range from accidental file removal or human error, to sudden system crashing, or hard drive failure. In addition, ransomware accounts for 42% of the world’s data loss alongside corrupted software and errors in formatting.

This guide discusses 5 ways to recover data from Mac hard drive. And prepare you for what to do if you ever need to recover lost data.

Overview of the Solutions to Mac Hard Drive Recovery

When important personal and business files become inaccessible due to damage to your hard drive, it can be frustrating as you deploy different measures to get them back. Luckily, there are different ways to recover your MacBook hard drive, depending on the cause of the loss.

Below are some of the common causes of data loss and Mac hard drive recovery solutions:

Causes Description & Solution
Accidental DeletionMac users can accidentally delete important files from their hard drives, only to realize their mistakes much later. Data loss due to accidental deletion can be recovered using “Disk Utility”.
Software Corruption or MalwareMalware and virus attacks can cause data loss and an effective MacBook hard drive recovery is through data recovery software. 
Sudden System Crash or Hardware FailureHardware Failure caused by physical damage can be resolved using Mac “Terminal” or “Time Machine”

How to Recover Files from Mac Hard Drive via Disk Utility

The Disk Utility is a feature built into the Mac operating system to help you manage both internal and external storage devices. You can also create a new disk image, partition your disk storage, and repair your disk in case of any damage.

To recover data from a Mac hard drive, follow these steps:

Step 1. Go to the Disk Utility app on your Mac. (You can do this by using “Spotlight Search” or searching manually.

💡 Method 1: Press the “Command and Spacebar button” simultaneously to open the Spotlight search and type in “Disk Utility” to open.

💡 Method 2: Open up the “Finder” window. Click on the “Utilities” folder, and on “Disk Utility”.

Step 2. Choose the volume of storage you would like to restore on the sidebar.

Step 3. Press “Restore”, and then choose the volume from which you need to restore the erased hard drive.

use disk utility to restore

Step 4. Click “Restore” > “Done” to complete the recovery process.

📑 Note: When you restore a hard drive via Disk Utility, the entire content on the drive will be replaced with the backup/restored content. If you own any files on the drive, before restoring them, copy them to a safe, external device.

How to Retrieve Files from Mac Hard Drive Using Time Machine

Time Machine is the failsafe software on macOS to automatically back files and also restores or recovers missing files easily. Here’s how to recover files from a Mac hard drive using Time Machine:

Step 1. On your Mac, open a Finder window, then type “Time Machine” on the search bar or simply click on the “Time Machine” icon on the topmost corner of your Mac.

Step 2. If the Time Machine icon is not in the menu bar, simply visit the Apple Menu and select System Settings. Click on the control center in the sidebar and across to Time Machine. Then, select “Show in Menu Bar.”

Step 3. Browse the Time Machine backup for the file(s) you would like to recover. You can search the dates, times, or even file location.

browse time machine backup

Step 4. Select the item(s), which can include a single file, folder, or an entire disk.

Step 5. Click “Restore” to return the file to its original location.

restore from time machine

📢 Further Reading:

How to Recover Data from Mac Hard Drive with Third-Party Software

The recovery software for macOS, such as ONERECOVERY, is a powerful tool to retrieve your lost or deleted files on your Mac hard drive and other storage devices including memory cards, flash drives, and even more. It works by scanning the storage device for any lost files, allowing you to restore them easily.

ONERECOVERY supports recovering hard drives of different Mac models including macOS Sonoma, macOS Ventura, etc., with M1, M2 & T2 chips. It is a user-friendly and free file recovery software for Mac, and it does not necessarily require the assistance of a professional to recover your lost and deleted files.

onerecovery main interface

Here’s how to retrieve files from a Mac hard drive:

Step 1. Download and install the ONERECOVERY software recovery tool for Mac.

Step 2. Launch the software on your Mac Finder or Launchpad.

Step 3. Select the Mac hard drive you would like to recover.

Step 4. Click “Search” at the right bottom and wait for the system to start scanning.

Step 5. Preview the files and select the files of your choice. Then, press the “Recover” button to get them back to your Mac hard drive.

Click here to get a more detailed tutorial on using this software: >> How to recover permanently deleted files

How to Use Terminal for MacBook Hard Drive Recovery

The Mac Terminal is a command-line emulator on all macOS systems to navigate through the computer easily and make specific changes. It can help open applications and recover deleted files. With a similar emulator to MS-DOS or UNIX operating systems, operating macOS is easy.

Here’s how to recover data from a Mac hard drive using the Mac Terminal:

Step 1. Open the Mac Terminal using the Spotlight feature or through Finder. You can also use the Mac Launchpad to do this.

Step 2. Type the following command “cd .Trash” , then click on Return.

Step 3. Type ls -al ~/.Trash (this will help you view the content in your Trash folder.

Step 4. If you’ve located the file(s) of your choice, type mv filename ../ and hit Return again. (Ensure you type the full filename(s) correctly)

restore using terminal

Step 5. Click “Quit” to exit the Mac Terminal.

Moreover, this solution is also useful when it’s necessary to recover files from an external hard drive on a Mac.

How to Restore Mac Hard Drive Data from Backup

Restoring Mac hard drive data from backup is another effective alternative to retrieve lost files. You can use the Disk Utility app and by simply switching your Mac to recovery mode, you can retrieve your data from the backup.

The following steps can help recover data from a Mac hard drive:

Step 1. Shut down your Mac and connect the local backup with the files – If you are using an Apple Silicon Mac, hold the power button for a few seconds OR press the power button + Control + R if you are using an Intel Mac.

Step 2. A unique interface will show up, which is way different from the usual one.

Step 3. Click on “Disk Utility” and press Continue.

Step 4. Select the desired hard drive and head over to the Restore tab.

Step 5. Choose the “connected external backup drive” as “Restore From” and “Mac hard drive” as “Restore to.”

Step 6. Click “Restore” and wait until the restoration process is over before restarting your computer to view the restored files.

Alternatively, you can also restore from your iCloud backup by doing the following:

Step 1. Log into your iCloud on your Mac.

Step 2. Click on your profile and choose “Settings”.

Step 3. Select Data Recovery and go to the data categories.

Step 4. Choose the files you would like to recover.

Step 5. Then click “Restore” and wait until it is restored.


Losing your essential files on your Mac can be heart-breaking, however, numerous tools can allow you to restore them. These tools range from software recovery tools like ONERECOVERY, external backups, Mac Terminals, and more. If none of these procedures work, you can reach out for professional assistance and send your laptop to a registered Apple repair store anywhere near you.


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